Loving Life after 50

RBC Bluesfest Festival Tips and Tricks

Ottawa Bluesfest Survival Guide

Every July, Ottawa hosts the highly anticipated RBC Bluesfest, which according to Billboard Magazine, is ranked as one of the top-ten music festivals in the world alongside the ever-famous Coachella and  Bonnaroo,  Since the festival first started over  2o years ago ( 1994 was the founding year) , the Ottawa Bluesfest has evolved from a three-day event to a multi-staged, two-week showcase that features the best of both Canadian and international music. The festival continues to grow and become more popular every year.  This year we are halfway through another great year.

Image from Ottawa Show Box

Besides having a diverse lineup of artists over a ten-day span , the festival is held in a prime downtown location on the grounds of the Canadian War Museum, right on the Ottawa River. This is one of the most see, must attend events of the summer.  Attending an outdoor festival takes a bit of planning.  One must always remember the show goes on regardless of inclement weather. How then can one be prepared for everything yet totally enjoy the experience?

I have been attending the Festival since the 90’s and have also served as volunteer for ten years so I think I may have just figured out a few tips and tricks for you.  Being prepared is not enough though one must also be “Canadian”.  Prepared, courteous and considerate.

Tips and Tricks for enjoying RBC Bluesfest

Top Hints

1.      Umbrella

Carrying a small umbrella regardless of the weather is just a smart move.  If the sun is beating down it offers great shade when you are waiting for the next show. If raining it provides a small amount of shelter so you can stay dry or at least keep the area around you dry.  Big tip, an umbrella is a “do” pre show and after show, it’s a total “don’t” during the show.  Be considerate and close the umbrella during the show. Hint always carry a disposable poncho

umbrellas at the festival

2.     Bring cash.

While most vendors do take debit/credit, going through the process of taking out your card, putting in your pin, entering your pin, blah, blah, blah , pretty monotonous and hello, possibly slow if the systems are being overused. . With cash you can simply pay, grab, and go! Hint: using cash allows you to monitor your drink intake ensuring you do not go overboard

3.     Bring a water bottle and snacks.

Don’t want to spend money on festival food? You’re welcome to bring in snacks and water bottles, as long as they are unopened prior to entering the festival gates. Eat up and stay hydrated! Hint:  bring some cash, festival food is the best so you may want to try a deep fried OREO or two. I hear Gabriel’s pizza is also rocking this year.

4.     Bring sunscreen!

Since Bluesfest is an outdoor festival, you’ll be spending a lot of time under the sun. Slather up, protect your skin from those harsh UV rays, and don’t forget to re-apply! ( Plus hello Umbrella for a bit of extra protection)

Being Prepared

5.     Pack some tissues (or a roll of toilet paper).

The festival staff try their best to keep things clean and convenient for concert-goers but it can be hard to keep up. Come prepared,if think you’ll be spending some time in the line ups for the portapotties always best to have some paper handy, plus a few wet wipes for sanitary purposes.

bluesfest portapotties

6.     Keep a copy of the schedule and plan out your day.

Whether you grab a physical copy at the gates, or save it on your phone, having a festival schedule will come in handy and help you plan out your evening. This way you can ensure that you don’t miss out on any of your favourite artists!

7.     Come dressed for the weather.

Figuring out what to wear can be a hassle, especially for outdoor events. About 90% of the time you’re pretty safe to go with shorts and a t-shirt, but evening may get cool especially by the river.  Rain is a hazard this summer so I recommend packing a light jacket or portable rain poncho. For those cold nights, you can wrap the jacket around your waist to wear for later. a Poncho can slip into a back pocket as a Just in Case. Better yet bring a heavier poncho, use it as a blanket during the day and a wrap in the evening.

8.     Wear closed-toed shoes.

I seriously cannot stress this one enough.  Your flip flops or strappy sandals may seem really cute looking in the mirror but…. Crowds of people and your unprotected toes. need I say more.  Plus if the weather is bad standing in open toe shoes in water and mud is not pleasant. Wear a pair of converse or cute sneakers. ( OK maybe workboots are overkill LOL)

bluesfest footwear


9.     Lawn Chair

This is a taboo I know but if you happen to be over 30 and plan on hanging out all day this is a must.  There is chair protocol though.  Sit while you are waiting no problem but during the show stand or at least be prepared that everyone in front of you will be.  In all my years the only show I saw everyone remain seated was James Taylor, what a site everyone just relaxed and enjoying the show.

lawnchairs at festivals

10.  Use social media!

Take tons of pictures, use and follow hashtags, and stay updated with what’s going on at the festival. Ottawa Bluesfest even has a mobile app that you can download that includes maps, set times, and other fun stuff! Also big HINT, there are contests going on every day you can’t win if you are not following them twitter, facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (@ottawabluesfest)

11.  Do not butt in front of everyone to get to the front of the stage.

If you get to the stage early you’ll give yourself some time to chill out before the set, and figure out the best angles to take pictures. If you are not prepared to get there early and hang tight do not be that idiot or group of idiots that rush and push trying to get to the front.

13.  Use your manners and say Thanks

So you’re a little late to the set and you want a good spot. There’s no need to shove, others want to watch the show just as much as you do. A simple “excuse me” will do the trick, and believe it or not, it’s a much more effective way to navigate through the crowd too! Plus big hint, thank a volunteer, they are actually working long hours in all weather to help make your experience great

Bluesfest Volunteer life

and finally,

14.  Have fun!

Live it up, soak up the sun, and enjoy some great music alongside the company of your friends.

Bluesfest fun in the VIP area

Disclosure: A Labour of Life  received a one week Bluesfest pass in exchange for this review. All opinions are our own and based on our experiences